Transport fare increases have pushed Brazilians to breaking point ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup
Protests across Brazil have reached a head as the world’s sporting public turns its gaze to the first matches of the 2013 Confederations Cup, an event designed to ‘test’ Brazil’s readiness to host the World Cup next year.
What started out as a protest against a 20-cent rise in transport fees has tapped into a deeper malaise that a large percentage of the Brazilian public has towards the direction of their growing economy. A bus ride in São Paulo will now set you back R$3.20, or around 95p, in a city where the minimum wage is R$678, about £200 per month, and where discounted monthly travelcards don’t exist. Having suffered under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, civil society has been further enraged by the shocking scenes of the police’s heavy-handed response to the protests.
Dissatisfaction over how out of touch Brazil’s political class are has been simmering for some time. Whilst living standards are squeezed by low wages and inflation, Brazilian politicians award themselves salaries upwards of R$20,000 (£5,924) per month, plus benefits. Trust in politicians is almost non-existent due to a culture of cronyism and bungs. Great swathes of the populace are exasperated that the government can spend upwards of R$31 billion (around £9 billion) on the World Cup, whilst the country’s infrastructure, education, health and security suffer from a crippling lack of investment.
Construction of the World Cup stadiums has run into the uniquely Brazilian combination of corruption and stifling bureaucracy, meaning stadiums built on the public dime are delayed, over budget and more expensive than corresponding venues at recent sporting events. The question remains as to what will happen to the stadiums after 2014. Average attendances in the top division of Brazilian football are around 13,000. The cities of Manaus, Cuiabá and Brasília have one team in the top three divisions between them (América-AM) yet have built stadiums with capacities of 40,000 plus.
In this context, the rise in transport fares can be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back – “a gota d’água” in Portuguese – leading to Brazilians taking to the streets in protest across the country, as well as worldwide. The increase being announced a few weeks back has meant the Confederations Cup games currently taking place have been just one focus of the demonstrations. Protests at the stadiums in Brasília and Rio de Janeiro have been met with tear gas, pepper spray and baton charges, and Sepp Blatter (FIFA president) and Dilma Rousseff (Brazilian president) were booed before the opening game began.
Brazilian communities around the world are calling for demonstrations in solidarity with the Brazilian protestors and against police repression. London’s event will take place from 5pm onwards on Tuesday 18 June in Trafalgar Square, the streets surrounding the Brazilian Consulate considered too narrow to hold a significant number of people safely. International support is greatly appreciated.
More information on the reasons for the Brazilian protests can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIBYEXLGdSg.
The London demonstration takes place on Tuesday 18 June, from 5pm. As of 18th June, the location has been updated to Old Palace Yard, between Parliament and Westminster Abbey. For more information, please see: https://www.facebook.com/events/183382041822867.
*Exchange rates taken from xe.com, correct as of 17/06/13
Image from: http://www.pragmatismopolitico.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/protesto-pm-rosas.jpg
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